Wednesday, January 8, 2014

4 comments What Happened in TMQ on My Christmas Break Part 1

When I take a break for Christmas I usually have the time to write one post. I generally choose to write MMQB every week since I have done it for so long. But rest assured, I do plan to get to the TMQ's that I have missed over those two weeks. I will be posting the December 24 and December 31 TMQ's here and while the events in the column are old, Gregg's stupidity and annoying writing style has no expiration date. Thousands of years from now when the alien species that has invaded Earth and killed all humans are reading TMQ their body will go from their normal dark green color to a lighter red color out of pure fury in reading that the human race they exterminated could write with such inaccuracy in a way that tries to mislead those who read what is being written. For the December 24th TMQ Gregg says the increase in NFL scoring (Gregg has decided there was an increase in scoring and the NFL defenses didn't catch up with the NFL offenses) parallels Texas football. If you will remember Texas is the center of the football world, except for the times when Gregg names another area of the United States as the center of the football world.

Barring the unexpected on season-finale Sunday, the NFL will set an overall scoring record. Teams are averaging 23.6 points per game; the reigning record, set in 1948, is 23.2 points per game.

If anyone else wrote this sentence then Gregg would criticize the writer for being hyper-specific. Gregg would write an NFL team can't score 23.6 points in a game so why doesn't the writer just say the NFL overall scoring record of 23 points per game was tied during the 2013 season? Then Gregg would write something about how hyper-specificity is ridiculous and I would roll my eyes. But since it is Gregg who is making the statement then he is allowing himself to be as hyper-specific as he wants to be.

If you want to know why scoring is up, don't look to the chuck rule, which has been around since 1978. The leading indicator is Texas high school football.

Makes sense. Scoring is up in the NFL because scoring is up in Texas high school football.

Several big-division Texas high schools this season averaged more than 50 points per game; Aledo High posted 64 points per game. Some of the results stemmed from the kind of extreme mismatches that can occur in prep competition. Some stemmed from bad sportsmanship. Aledo generated stats by beating up on mismatched opponents, winning a game 91-0 and twice by 84-7, all these contests versus weak teams.

The parallels between Texas high school football games where one team is extremely overmatched and high scoring NFL games were one team is extremely overmatched is eerie. Who can forget the Saints beating the Jaguars 80-3 this season or the Patriots beating the Jets 64-0 in Week 1?

But mainly Texas high-school scores reflect a change in the way the sport is played in the Lone Star State, center of football culture. As recently as a decade ago, power-I rushing offense dominated the state's football -- and thus sent on to colleges and the NFL players who were skilled in power tactics. Now fast-snap shotgun spread offenses are the rule throughout Texas. Players schooled in quick-snap pass-wacky advance to nearby colleges such as Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, where fast-paced, high-scoring offense is the rule.

I always love it when Gregg attributes an NFL trend to something and he seems to make up where that trend comes from. It's like David Klingler never existed and I'm supposed to believe ten years ago college offenses were running the power-I predominantly and it's been a trend only over the last decade that high-scoring college offenses have been around. It's funny because Gregg is just absolutely making this up. He has no factual information to back this contention up with (I would love to be wrong and have Gregg present this factual information, but again, he's just making assumptions and guessing instead), he's just writing down what he wants to believe is true in order to prove the point he wants to prove correct. Take a look at the teams who have appeared in the BCS Championship Game. How many of those teams ran a power-I rushing offense? How many of those teams ran an early version of the spread offense or a pro-style offense?

A generation ago, Dan Marino's quick release was considered remarkable. Today, quick release is the standard in Texas high school football, and has filtered upward.

Most Texas high school quarterbacks release the football as quickly as Dan Marino did. Sure. Sounds factual to me.

Young Texas-raised quarterbacks, including Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill, all from the seven-on-seven generation, have become NFL stars. 

Let's not use the word "stars" quite this loosely. Also, three of these quarterbacks are highly-drafted, highly-paid glory boys that Gregg dislikes so much...well, until he wants to use their draft status to prove a point. At that point he refers to them as "stars."

Texas-raised linemen, backs and receivers have brought the fast-pace ethos to the NFL.

Examples of these Texas-raise linemen, backs and receivers? None. Great, thanks. I don't necessarily doubt Gregg's conclusion, but he assumes that his audience will assume whatever he writes is factual when anyone who reads TMQ regularly know that Gregg consistently misleads and lies to his TMQ audience.

The big downside is cultural. Texas not only led the charge into Xbox offense, it's led the charge into year-round football for the young. Seven-on-seven is played almost all year, and any boy who wants to start in high school knows he'd best be present at every "optional" seven-on-seven event. Less than a generation ago, most states did not allow public high schools to hold football practices, or even organized conditioning, in the offseason. Now most do. Year-round youth and high school football has become a drain down which the teen years of boys disappear, taking along the time that might have been used to improve grades and get ready for college.

Of course on the flip side of this, seven-on-seven football is a way through which kids who wouldn't normally get the chance to go to college are able to attend college. Let's ignore that though since Gregg lives a lily-white existence where everyone who plays football in college was going to college anyway and their parents can afford to pay for college if there is no football scholarship available. What about the kids? The kids!

It might not be coincidence that over roughly the same period that year-round football has become the norm in Texas and other states, African-American women have begun to excel in college while African-American men have struggled.

It might not be a coincidence. Or it might be a coincidence. It might not be a coincidence that during the decades when baseball was considered "America's Pastime" there was an international war the United States was involved in nearly all of those decades. Does baseball cause international wars? It might not be a coincidence.

The forthcoming book "Degrees of Inequality," by Cornell University professor Suzanne Mettler, details the poor performance of African-American males in higher education. African-American girls seem to be reaching college prepared, while African-American boys as a group are not.

Gee, it doesn't seem like a generalization at all to blame sports as the cause for this. "All African-American boys play sports and that's why they can't get into colleges. I'm Gregg Easterbrook and I saw a black guy in my gated neighborhood the other day so I called the cops."

Of course sports is just one reason. But girls play sports and it doesn't hold them back academically. It is predominantly boys who get sucked into the time-draining, all-encompassing culture of year-round high school football -- and 98 percent never receive any recruiting offer, while many fail to attain the GPAs and extracurriculars that would lead to regular admission to college and regular financial aid.

It wouldn't be Gregg Easterbrook if he didn't ignore points that disprove his theory. For example, women's sports can also be a time suck. Women's high school soccer players can play in youth leagues, school-organized leagues, recreation leagues, and All-Star leagues that girls try out for. These leagues all require travel during the weekends and sometimes during the week.

But except for the handful who go on to NFL paychecks -- the odds of a high school varsity player reaching the NFL are 1-in-2,000 -- the kind of football obsession displayed in Texas may be backfiring on boys by diverting their efforts from classroom success.

And of course, Gregg is making huge assumptions in order to prove his point. In this case he is assuming high school boys would always study during the time they aren't playing football, which is a huge, massive assumption.

Sweet Drive of the Week: Trailing New Orleans 13-10, Carolina faced fourth-and-7 on its 36 with 2 minutes, 4 seconds remaining. The crowd booed when the punt unit trotted on, and your columnist expected a fake punt.

I would bet Gregg wrote "Game Over" in his notebook. I would bet anything he did this, but won't mention he did this so his readers don't believe he could ever be wrong. Gregg only mentions when his "Game Over" statement is correct.

But the Panthers had been terrible on offense in steady rain -- 0-for-9 on third downs. They have one of the league's best defenses and held two timeouts; the two-minute warning was effectively a third timeout.

You and I both know as veteran readers of TMQ that Gregg Easterbrook would normally NEVER advocate a team punt in this exact situation. He would point out giving the ball back to Drew Brees is a bad idea and then say Ron Rivera was a chicken for punting. But hey, it worked out for the Panthers so Gregg's beliefs about going for it on fourth down go out the window and it is now a BRILLIANT decision to punt the football in this situation.

Thirty-seven yard completion to Ted Ginn on a "semi," a deep crossing pattern, and suddenly the home crowd likes the punt decision.

Generally, punting the football with two minutes to go in a football while down three points is a bad idea. Especially when Drew Brees is the quarterback for the opposing team. Booing was in order, even if it worked out.

The Saints needed to force two incompletions; instead they brought an all-out blitz, though a sack still would have left Carolina in position for a field goal to force overtime.

Gregg leaves out the information that the field was soaking wet and even a 40-50 yard field goal wouldn't be easy because there is a chance the kicker could slip, but yeah, pushing the Panthers further back for a longer field goal was a bad idea.

Touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon -- sweet. Both big plays on the drive were by castoffs, which is extra sweet.

Of course Ted Ginn would also be referred to Gregg as a "highly-drafted glory boy bust," but he only refers to Ginn like that when it is convenient for him to do so.

Sweet Stop of the Week: Wasn't Seattle supposed to be the team with the great defense? Score tied at 3-3, the Seahawks had first-and-goal on the Arizona 3 with 42 seconds till intermission.

Yeah, weren't the Seahawks supposed to have a good defense? How come they had given up 3 whole points prior to halftime? What kind of great defense gives up 3 points in a half?

The Patriots have gone soft? They didn't look that way in pounding the defending-champion Ravens, who had more to play for. New England leading 7-0, facing third-and-5, the Flying Elvii set a bunch trips right. The bunch trips has been around for 20 years, yet Baltimore reacted as if they'd never seen it.

Because in the mind of Gregg Easterbrook, if a defense has seen one bunch trips offensive play then that defense has seen them all and should immediately know what will happen on the play. I really believe Gregg thinks the NFL is like Tecmo Bowl where there is only one play that can be run out of a certain formation and that's why Gregg criticizes a defense (like he does the Ravens here) for not immediately guessing the play. The amount of plays that can be run out of a bunch trips formation is quite large. It's ridiculous to expect the Ravens to know the exact play the Patriots will run.

Two defensive backs followed the same guy, leaving Danny Amendola uncovered on a simple curl that turned into a 34-yard gain;

It's almost like the Patriots used a play they knew would trip up the Ravens defense. But since all bunch trips formations have the same play run out of them then that's impossible, right?

New England leading 20-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Ravens reached fourth-and-5 on the Flying Elvii 19. That cannot be the field goal unit trotting in! Outraged, the football gods pushed the try wide. Baltimore had failed on fourth down on two of the three previous drives, but if a coin came up tails on two of the three previous flips, that would say nothing about the next flip.

While I don't agree with this decision, Gregg's constant use of the "coin flip" analogy is just laughable. A coin flip is always a 50/50 proposition regardless of the previous flip. Whether a team can convert a fourth down is not always a 50/50 proposition where prior information on what occurred on fourth down is useless. Down and distance to get the first down is relevant information, as is a team's ability to convert on fourth down throughout the season. This is all information that determines a team's chances of converting the fourth down. So it's not a coin flip-type situation at all. Bad analogy.

Then Gregg rails against the blackout rules, which I sort of agree with, except for this part...

Parts of Florida were force-fed the meaningless Bucs-Rams tilt, rather than Saints-Panthers. Thus Sunday in the early slot, Florida became Hell's Sports Bar Incarnating on Earth, as viewers couldn't see either of the great games going on, but could choose between two nothingburgers.

It makes sense for Florida to get the Tampa Bay-St. Louis game since the Buccaneers are a team located in Florida. If I were a fan of the Buccaneers I would be pissed off if I didn't have the option of watching them play against the Rams. So when it comes to showing a Buccaneers game in Florida I completely understand and would hope this game would be shown over Saints-Panthers.

And because he had been talking too much about sports in his football-related weekly column, Gregg begins talking about evolution and the discovery of new theories about human evolution. He writes 1,252 words on this topic in order to kill space since he seems to be running out of football-related topics to discuss.

Then Gregg talks about porridge, talks more about evolution and the cosmos, and finally talks some about the spotted owl. This is a football column by the way.

Andrew Luck now has 7,914 career passing yards, rendering him likely to take Cam Newton's record of 7,920 passing yards in a player's first two seasons. Newton struggled to complete games early in his career; already Luck is 21-11.

Newton took over a team that went 2-14 the year before, while Luck took over a team that went 2-14 the year before as well. Of course, the Colts still had most of the team that had made the playoffs nine straight seasons prior to that, while the Panthers had no made the playoffs since 2008. But yeah, Newton had to learn how to win, Andrew Luck was already a winner. I've heard it before.

The Stadium Gods Chortled: A week ago, the Lions lost at home on a 61-yard field goal by the Ravens. Outside it was 8 degrees when the kick was launched; TMQ noted the loss was the price Detroit fans pay for indoor comfort, since the kick would have stood little chance in the elements. This week, Detroit lost at home by three points to the Giants, who hit a 52-yard field goal. Outside as the kick boomed, it was 40 degrees with light freezing rain. Had that contest been played in the elements as the football gods intended, that kick likely would have missed too.

I feel like Gregg believes if he repeats the same talking points over and over then it makes them more true. Saying the Lions were screwed because they play indoors ignores that the Lions possibly could have made field goals or scored points while playing indoors they might not have made if they had an outdoor stadium. It's a level playing field. The Lions get screwed by playing indoors sometimes and benefit from playing indoors sometimes.

Reader David Clauss of East Providence, R.I., writes, "Back in 2007 when New England's offense was a juggernaut and ran up the score, you consistently criticized Bill Belichick for this. This season, you say nothing about John Fox, and praise Denver's dazzling offensive stats. Why the Broncos favoritism?"

Uh-oh. Gregg better mealy-mouth his way around this one. I don't want to spoil it, but Gregg basically says he favors the Broncos over the Patriots because he doesn't like Bill Belichick. There's a shocker. I'm just happened he didn't say anything about Spygate.

All season I've mulled whether Denver is running up the score.

I'm sure it's an issue that has kept Gregg up late at night, but he just failed to mention it in any TMQ this year. There's barely enough time to discuss whether Denver is running up the score or not when having to discuss other important issues like the spotted owl, space travel, the inaccuracy of television shows, and how much money government officials waste on bodyguards.

Denver defeated Tennessee 51-28, but the lead did not become insurmountable until late. When the Broncs led Philadelphia 42-13 at the end of the third quarter, Manning held a clipboard for the rest of the contest. So, no problem with either of those high-scoring outings. Sunday, Manning should have come out with the Broncos ahead 30-13 and only five minutes remaining: Denver plainly was playing to make sure its star got the touchdown-passes record. (He might sit in the season finale.)

Manning didn't sit. He kept throwing passes in the last game of the season against the Raiders. The Patriots backup quarterbacks appeared in six games in 2007, meaning Brady was pulled six times, while Brock Osweiler appeared in four games this season, meaning Manning was pulled four times. The Patriots did have a huge point differential in 2007 of 315 points compared to the Broncos point differential of 207 points this season though. 

I'd be the first to admit some of the difference in reaction is optics. Belichick snarls at the public; Fox comes across as awe-shucks. Maybe they're both different in private. But no one puts a gun to Belichick's head and forces him to snarl -- he could make an effort to seem grateful for his good fortune.

It's good to know Gregg admits he treats NFL head coaches differently because he simply doesn't like them. That seems fair for a writer to do.

Holding a 15-point lead over Colorado State, Washington State faced second-and-5 with 4:32 remaining, the Cougars went incompletion, incompletion, punt, stopping the clock twice. Colorado State would score the winning points as time expired. Had Washington State simply twice run up the middle for no gain, the Cougars almost surely would have prevailed.

Of course if Washington State had run the football to chew up clock and then lost the game because of this Gregg would have pointed out Washington State got the lead by throwing the ball and now has stopped trying to score points. Then he would say THAT is why Washington State lost the game. Also, Washington State not running out the clock isn't why they lost this game. They lost the game because they fumbled three times in the span of three plays. The loss is directly attributable to turnovers, not a failure to run the clock out.

Manly Man Play of the Day: Pittsburgh faced fourth-and-2 on its 44, the Steelers lined up to punt -- fake kicks are most promising on fourth-and-short. The punter completed a nice pass for the first down, touchdown on the possession. One would assume the football gods would favor Green Bay playing in snow; the Steelers got the football gods on their side by this manly-man decision.

This paragraph encompasses almost everything that annoys me about Gregg Easterbrook. Ok, maybe it encompasses 35% of what annoys me. 

Adventures in Officiating: Peter King of MMQB has reported that replay reviews may be moved to a central location, beamed electronically to a league office. This should speed up tedious and lengthy reviews.

Great, Gregg Easterbrook is aware of Peter King. We can't have two lofty, pretentious writers combining to form one super-lofty, pretentious writer. This can't happen. Also, Peter King would argue he isn't "of MMQB" but he is "of MMQB from the web site THE MMQB."

While we're at it, let's make replay review double blind.

Here's what would happen. Review officials would be sitting in an office in New York City, which for NFL purposes is located in New Jersey. A call is challenged at a game. A monitor would light up and show the disputed play -- without telling the replay official what was called on the field.

I understand the reason for this, but it sort of negates the whole "indisputable visual evidence" standard officials use to overturn a call, no? That's fine to use a double blind replay system, but if the monitor doesn't know what was called on the field then he may have difficulty coming to a determination on exactly what the hell he is supposed to figure out. So the replay official would have to at least know what is being challenged. Of course, Gregg doesn't think about this because he isn't capable of deep thought as it relates to football. Here's an example of the issue I see with a double blind review.

Andre Johnson catches a pass over the middle and is immediately hit by a Patriots defender and loses the football. The call on the field is it was a fumble and Bill O'Brien challenges this call saying Johnson never had possession of the football. The replay official in New Jersey will know the call on the field was a fumble since if it were ruled an incomplete pass then the play would not be reviewable under the current replay rules.

The replay official would have two choices -- he would message that the play was indisputably an X, or that there is doubt. If the play was indisputably X, that would be the challenge result. If there was doubt, whatever was called on the field would stand. But the replay official would not know what was called on the field.

As long as the replay official knows what is being challenged I wouldn't have a huge issue with this.

That the referee staring at the review monitor already knows the call on the field introduces observer bias. He is not asking himself "What happened on this play?" but rather "Can our original call be justified?"

Possibly, but it also meets the criteria set out by the current replay rules where the official has to know the original call in order to determine if there is "indisputable visual evidence" to overturn the original call or not.

If the replay reviewer at a remote location did not know what was called on the field -- or what the game situation was, or whether the crowd cheered or booed -- he would only ask himself, "What happened on this play?" and he'd only have to determine if he was sure what happened.

But there are situations where the replay official would know the call since the play was being reviewed and not everything that happens on a play is reviewable.

Next Week: How much of the United States will be force-fed a woofer and not see the playoff-like Chicago-Green Bay, or the strong Baltimore-Cincinnati or San Francisco-Arizona contests?

Too many viewers got Tampa Bay-New Orleans, but it makes perfect sense for viewers in Louisiana and Florida to get this game. So when Gregg wonders why viewers in Florida had to watch the Tampa Bay-New Orleans game he needs to understand viewers in Florida should get that game.

In the next Christmas Break TMQ, Gregg will suggest the NFL switch to a seeded format. What's the point of having divisions if a switch to this format did take place? I'm sure Gregg will have the perfect solution to this question.


Ericb said...

"One would assume the football gods would favor Green Bay playing in snow; the Steelers got the football gods on their side by this manly-man decision."

Because we all know that it never snows in Pittsburgh.

Anonymous said...

"Had that contest been played in the elements as the football gods intended, that kick likely would have missed too."

Is Gregg willfully this ignorant, or does he play it up for the crowd? Does he really believe that these Lions games would have been played the exact same way if they had been outdoors rather than indoors? When will this flippin' idiot learn that if you change one thing, you change everything? If the Lions played outdoors, Stafford's career is different, Calvin Johnson's is different, etcetera etcetera, but no I'm sure the only thing that would change is whether Justin Tucker can make a 61 yard field goal.

"That the referee staring at the review monitor already knows the call on the field introduces observer bias. He is not asking himself "What happened on this play?" but rather "Can our original call be justified?""

No kidding! Good god, what an idiot. The whole point of replay is to see if there's enough visual evidence to overturn the call on the field. The call on the field is essential. A double-blind replay system would be such a huge mess, that of Gregg is the one who came up with it. Replay officials would be making rulings with 51% certainty (making that number up, but you know what I mean) rather than 100% certainty. They might look at a replay and say, "I think it's a fumble," rather than saying, "the ruling on the field is incomplete and I can't overturn that." The idea of indisputable visual evidence is essential to the replay process, as it forces (or is supposed to force) officials to make changes only if they're certain. Take that away, and you'd have replay officials overturning calls with 51% certainty rather than 100%.

Slag-King said...

Year-round youth and high school football has become a drain down which the teen years of boys disappear, taking along the time that might have been used to improve grades and get ready for college.

Really? As opposed to having so much free time that they get into more trouble? Is Gregg advocating that teenage boys drink, smoke, and sow their wild oats with girls younger than they are?

As for Texas football: I grew up in Texas (graduated at Midland Lee) and I remember the glory days of Lee / Permian High (of Friday Night Lights) rivalry and the national exposure of such games. Texas High School football was (and still is) a big deal. In the district 4-5A, in 1994-95 (my senior year), two teams ran Wishbone offense, four teams ran some variations of the I/Power-I, and one team ran run-and-shoot. The offense types were varied, depending on the coaches. Gregg obviously thinks that all Texas high school football teams all ran the same Power-I offense and thus today run the same spread offense. His view of the world is so narrow that the world would stop spinning if he has a fresh, original idea.

Bengoodfella said...

Eric, it never has. True story.

Anon, I think he is willfully ignorant. Also, I think there is potential for him to not actually be thinking about what he is writing because he knows he can write whatever and ESPN will print it. Everything would be different if the Lions played outdoors. Playing in/outdoors doesn't just affect this kick.

Think the call on the field is essential also. I can see where he is going with the suggestion, but I think if anything there should be a guy in NY (the home office of the NFL) who knows the call and then confirms it. I think it's important to know the call.

Slag, I think it's silly he just assumes this kids are going to study if they aren't playing sports. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't work that way. If I didn't have tennis practice in high school I didn't replace that time with more studying.

I'm sure teams ran a Power-I in Texas, but you are right, his worldview is so narrow. He makes assumptions and then bases a conclusion on these assumptions. I really wish he wouldn't do this, but he continues to.